Harnett County’s animal control shelter is too small and inadequate to provide the essential services needed. That fact is not disputed by anyone. What to do to proactively resolve the issues …
Harnett County’s animal control shelter is too small and inadequate to provide the essential services needed. That fact is not disputed by anyone. What to do to proactively resolve the issues is where all thoughts seem to diverge and take multiple directions.
Some want tougher laws to strengthen animal welfare. Most want a better shelter. All appeared willing to take the time to do it right at a Harnett County Board of Commissioners work session Aug. 9.
“Our animal control ordinance is the only enforceable tool in existence that regulates protections for animals at the local level,” said Roni Kemp, founder of Rise and Shine Pit Bull Rescue. “Since a chance to revise the ordinance only takes place every four to six years it seems foolish to rush through this process. Time and time again, our animal control officers report feeling handicapped by our outdated ineffective ordinance, unable to properly enforce it. Well, here we are with a rare chance to change that.”
Two of the items covered on the work session agenda involved the non-human inhabitants of the county. First, the animal shelter and next, some proposed ordinances regarding those animals. Both items were tabled until a future meeting after several people spoke.
What to do about
the animal shelter
Mark Barnard of Shelter Planners of America presented a proposal to the board regarding options to update, remodel or replace the current Harnett shelter. Barnard is an architect for SPA and explained the process for evaluating the county’s needs. He described his company and the services they provide, the goals of designing a shelter, common problems experienced, design samples and the entire process.
SPA claims to be the most experienced animal shelter design firm in the nation. With over 30 years of experience, this company has designed over 750 animal shelters and 350 animal control facilities. SPA also touts being the only firm with actual shelter operation experience. Their goal is to provide designs to fit budgetary and real needs for the county.
SPA designs include adoption display rooms, cat condos, cat community rooms, jumbo dog kennels, positive ventilation cat cages, quick clean kennels, cat fresh air porches, courtyard kennels, convertible kennels and individual drainage design.
Goals for Harnett County
Barnard offered the following goals for the county’s shelter situation:
Create a facility utilizing the best practices in humane animal care.
Reduce stress in animals through better separation and flow, sound proofing, comfortable kennels and cages as well as natural lighting.
Prevent disease by having medical isolation and quarantine areas enhanced by HVAC systems, proper drainage, high-quality cleaning equipment and quality laundry facilities and grooming areas.
Create a warm and welcoming facility for the public to visit with good sound proofing, natural light, odor control, private get-acquainted rooms and landscaping.
Allow more opportunities for socialization between people and animals through get-acquainted rooms, outdoor walks, cat condos and community cat rooms.
Focus on education and prevention through an environment filled with useful information, an education and training center for humane education and a spay/neuter program.
Create a pleasant and effective work space for staff with sufficient office space and storage, conference rooms, file storage, adoption interview rooms, an employee break room, all with a proper flow and easy to clean features, etc.
Proposed animal ordinances
Proposed animal ordinance changes redefine who can deem an animal vicious, what can happen to that animal and how appeals will be handled in the future.
In regards to “vicious animals” under animal control offenses, “a lot of changes were made to that to be compliant with NCGS 130A-200,” which requires a health director to deem an animal vicious, Christopher Appel, the county’s senior staff attorney, told the commissioners Aug. 9.
“When an animal has been declared to be vicious and a menace to the public’s health, the Health Department director shall order the animal to be confined to the owner’s or person in possession’s property,” under the revisions. “However, the animal may be permitted to leave its owner’s or person in possession’s property when accompanied by a responsible adult and restrained on a leash.”
Animals may be deemed public nuisances if they “habitually or repeatedly, without provocation,” chase, snap at, attack or otherwise molest pedestrians, bicyclists, motor vehicle passengers, delivery drivers or people who lawfully enter their property, farm livestock or domestic animals “even if the animal never leaves the owner’s or person in possession’s property.” That provision will “not apply if such animal is restrained by a pen, fence, or other secure enclosure,” according to the proposed changes.
Animals can also be declared nuisances if they “damage gardens, flowers, shrubbery, trees, fences, gates, equipment or vehicles, causing physical harm to domesticated pets or livestock” or if they repeatedly poop and pee on private property without the property owner’s permission, under the revisions.
Appel said they did propose to eliminate the provision that defines animals as public nuisances if they “habitually or continuously” bark, whine or howl in an excessive nature.
“The reason why we took that out is just due to the volume of calls that we get for that,” Appel said. “Considering all the new subdivisions we’re getting in here, it’s becoming an issue being able to enforce barking or noise (complaints) and so on. ... We’re trying to focus on the major issues so we did take that out.”
The Harnett County Superior Court would handle any appeals for animals deemed “vicious” or “public nuisances.”
Tweaks were also made to who can file a “dangerous dog” claim and what may happen to a dog not wearing a rabies tag.
Cats would no longer be required to wear a rabies tag under the proposed changes, but dogs will have to wear them at all times. Owners of cats and ferrets must still maintain records of rabies vaccinations for their pets.
“Animal Control Officers shall canvass the county to determine if there are any dogs not wearing the required rabies vaccination tag. If a dog is found not wearing the required tag, the Animal Control Officer shall check to see if the owner’s or person in possession’s identification can be found on the dog,” states a proposed ordinance amendment.
“If the dog is wearing an owner or person in possession identification tag, or if the Animal Control Officer otherwise knows who the owner or person in possession is, the Animal Control Officer shall notify the owner or person in possession in writing to have the animal vaccinated against rabies and to produce the required rabies vaccination certificate to the Animal Control Officer within three days of notification. If the dog is not wearing an owner or person in possession identification tag and the Animal Control Officer does not otherwise know who the owner or person in possession is, the Animal Control Officer may impound the animal ...”
Another proposed change to the county’s rule book allows a “witness of an alleged dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog, including an animal control officer or law enforcement officer, or a victim of an alleged dangerous or potentially dangerous dog” to file a “Dangerous Dog Hearing Request form to have the dog declared dangerous or potentially dangerous.”
Under current law, dangerous dogs must be tattooed or microchipped as such and “surgically sterilized” within 30 days. Final appeals can be made to the Harnett County Superior Court.
Animal bites must be reported to Harnett County Health Director John Rouse instead of the sheriff’s office or animal control within 24 hours of treatment, under changes made to comply with state statutes.
Proposed penalties include $100 fines for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and $400 for a third and any subsequent violation.
County commissioners are expected to vote on the proposed changes at a future meeting.
Robert Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-230-2037. Emily Weaver can be reached at email@example.com or at 910-230-2028.